Headshots: different goals, different photos

What makes a good headshot selection?


It’s the age old question.

First, most important, it must ACTUALLY look like you.  I mean it must REALLY look like you.  This is not the airbrushed-and-I-am-perfect “you”.  This is the “you” that is actually going to walk into the audition room.  It can be the beautiful “you” but it must be the real beautiful you.  You will not disappoint the audition room if you really look like your photo.


Here is how you get around trying to find that one perfect headshot…

Use different headshots for different goals (and put the online). 

different goals, different headshots

Put multiple “looks of you” on your website and online actor profiles (Actors Access, etc) and that will be your own subversive way of suggesting to others the multiple ways that your looks can change.

The pics that you lead with for T.V. versus indie film versus theater versus commercials are all potentially different from each other.  And probably one is different than what you lead with for comedy versus drama.  So instead of trying to put all of these contradictory elements into ONE headshot (impossible),  your online presence is going to be where you suggest the range of looks that you are capable of creating for the various types of roles.


Every Casting Director and every Director has a different aesthetic. 

Film Director Steven Soderbergh may prefer a naturalistic off-the-streets look for The Knick or any of his films (he loves to use unknown faces) to enhance believability of the story. Film Director Michael Bay prefers bombshell beauty to sell to the masses for Transformers.  So, I think it’s fair to say that you can’t make one headshot that is going to satisfy everyone’s needs.

Hence, get a few different looks and offer them all online.

When I was casting I was often surprised to find that many Directors, Producers, & Writers can’t quite imagine a makeover on an actor, so you have to feed it to them in your photos.  Someone had to have real vision and trust that Charlize Theron could be made-over and become a serial killer prostitute in Monster.  So, again, offer up varieties of ways that you can look.


Contradictions that we can’t ignore


for every example, there is an opposite example

  • Too many looks can confuse people on your marketability.
  • Some want the role spelled out for them.  They want to see that you can do EXACTLY what they are looking for.
  • Many decision-makers want the actor to look beautiful no matter what the story is about.  It just depends on the marketing goals of the project or the aesthetics of the creators. Blockbuster films tend to go for “mass appeal” in its leads, right? (NOT ALWAYS, this is a generalization I am making just to hit the point of sometimes “beauty” matters.)(This is one of the reasons that I think Orange Is The New Black was such a breakout – those actors were based not on beautiful women in prison – but about true character nuances. All types, ages, sizes, colors.)
  • Judgements of your pics are in the eyes of the beholder. What you think is beautiful might be different than me. Impossible to guess what that is as times change, examples shift.


More tips


  • In general, a generalization yes, photos make people look younger than in person, so be prepared for that possible misrepresentation.  It has to do with the lighting and the makeup. So if you want to “look your age” then make sure your photographer knows this!
  • MAKE-UP. For my Women:  to really look like you, keep it seeming natural in your makeup.  (I know this is hard for some of us!)
    • Don’t go heavy with mascara and eye liners and lip colors.  Keep it real.  Look at Laura Linney –  natural beauty always in every role. ESPECIALLY if you want to do film, indie film or character work, keep it feeling real.
    • For “beauty” roles, still keep in mind the allure of “seemingly natural beauty”.
    • Can you have a stylized heavy mascara image in the midst of your pile of images – but of course!
    • If the pic is to get commercials, then perfect skin is probably going to be important, but again consider that you have to walk in the room looking like the person in the photo so be sure to sync that up.
  • Get a “neutral” professional headshot that you feel awesome about.  You will want one that you feel good about being the shot that can get you seen for ANY project.  So, not devoid of feeling, but not over-expressive in any one emotional note or character type.  Aim for thoughtful and open.  A sparkle of life in your eyes should still be there! Having a basic one on hand might be useful.




Have several current options easily available for submitting appropriate photos to appropriate roles.

Cater your submission (if you submit one pic) with the image that best inspires the role.  Submit a quirky smile for comedy or funny best friend.  Submit serious and soulful for an indie drama.

And… aim to feel good about your photos! That will help you hold your head higher with confidence when you submit and then walk into the role.

You are ready – go forth and create the imagery that inspires others to build films and TV shows off of you!




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